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World Class Neonatal Care in Central New Jersey

The Bristol Myers Squibb Children's Hospital provides world class care for New Jersey's littlest patients

The neonatal intensive care unit at the Bristol Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey, has seen its share of joy and heartache, and so have Claire and Tim Drain.

The Bernardsville, New Jersey, couple experienced the passing of Hope, one of twin daughters born 12 weeks premature in 2004, following weeks of heroic efforts to save the fragile infant. Hope’s twin, Elizabeth, who weighed only two pounds, 11 ounces at birth, is today a beautiful kindergartner with long blonde hair and a feisty spirit who challenges boys in the playground to outrace her.

When the Drains returned to the hospital in 2005 for the birth of son, Charlie, 10 weeks premature, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, or NICU, had moved into new and larger quarters, but many of the faces were the same. After what the Drains had gone through, these doctors, nurses and other members of the health care team were almost like family, and by the time a healthy Charlie went home, one nurse actually would be: NICU nurse Agnes Sindac, to whom the Drains had grown especially close, accepted the honor of being the boy’s godmother.

A personal commitment

“I never felt I was just part of the system, just passing through,” Claire says of the children’s hospital. “I really felt that the staff had a personal commitment to getting my babies as well as they could be.”

New Jerseyans have long considered hospitals in New York and Philadelphia their best hope for infants and children needing advanced medical care. That is changing.

Since opening its doors in 2001, the Bristol Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital has made a name for itself with families like the Drains by providing specialized services once seen as the domain of big-city academic medical centers, while also retaining the caring, tender touch people tend to associate with regional hospitals.

Pediatric heart surgery, neurosurgery, organ transplant, cancer treatment, and care for the most medically fragile infants are among the specialties available.

An early backer

Bristol Myers Squibb, with facilities across central New Jersey, became an early backer of the idea of building the children’s hospital in New Brunswick and pledged $5 million to its capital campaign. A grateful Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital would name the new hospital for the company in recognition.

“Improving access to care is a central part of our philanthropic mission,” says John Damonti, president of the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation and vice president of Corporate Philanthropy. “New Jersey, for all its resources and large population, had historically lacked a medical center where families could find specialized services for children. Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital wanted to change that, and we did, too.”

No sooner, it seemed, was the ribbon cut for the children’s hospital than other buildings and institutions focused on children’s health began rising nearby.

In 2005, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ)-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, which provides the clinical leadership for the Bristol Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital, opened the Child Health Institute of New Jersey. Located next door to the hospital, the 150,000 square-foot facility offers ambulatory care clinics for – and conducts research into – a range of diseases and conditions affecting children.

In 2007, Children’s Specialized Hospital -- a rehabilitation hospital and member of the Robert Wood Johnson Health System -- opened directly adjacent to the Bristol Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital.

A home away from home

Across the street, a Ronald McDonald House serves as a home away from home for the increasing number of families who come to the area for care. Also across the street, an organization called Embrace Kids offers supportive services to families whose children have cancer, sickle cell disease or other blood disorders.

Taken together, these institutions form a pediatric health campus unique in New Jersey and have positioned New Brunswick to become a regional, statewide and – some say even national -- health resource in the care of children.

“The corporate leadership of Bristol Myers Squibb believed in the vision of building a world-class children’s hospital here in New Jersey,” says Stephen K. Jones, president and CEO of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. “The company’s executives took a leap of faith, and today we are so proud of the Bristol Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital and our children’s health campus, and it’s all due in big part to the leadership and vision of Bristol Myers Squibb Company.”

The Bristol Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital has established itself in the community quickly, earning high marks from families and area pediatricians for its quality of care and family-friendly environment. It has also expanded quickly, adding three new floors in 2004 to accommodate more beds and new medical specialties.

New clinical centers

The Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation renewed its gift to the children’s hospital in 2006, pledging an additional $5 million. With the hospital’s immediate brick-and-mortar needs met, the Foundation helped the hospital create three new clinical centers that address major health threats facing children.

The first, the Bristol Myers Squibb Pediatric Metabolism Center, was created to combat pediatric obesity and its related health consequences. Another, the Bristol Myers Squibb Center for Pediatric Clinical Immunology and Infectious Disease, focuses on immune-system disorders including HIV/AIDS, and life-threatening allergies. The third, the Bristol Myers Squibb Center for Children with Rheumatic Diseases, is dedicated to the research and treatment of conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

The presence of the medical school’s Child Health Institute of New Jersey provides a natural complement for these centers, offering opportunities for research and clinical activities in multidisciplinary collaboration with hospital personnel, Institute researchers and medical school faculty.

The medical school’s Department of Pediatrics, with its growing number of clinical specialists and subspecialists, has enabled the children’s hospital to expand services in other areas as well. A Regional Perinatal Center was established, as were centers for pediatric cardiology, clinical neurophysiology and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Private practice pediatricians in the region, meanwhile, provide the leadership for a strong pediatric orthopedic program, which also benefits from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital’s designation as a state Level One Trauma Center.

“The best thing of all is that children and families that once had to leave the state for treatment can now get the care they need close to home,” says Patricia Whitley-Williams, M.D., the children’s hospital physician-in-chief, as well as professor and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “Everyone associated with this hospital feels enormously proud about what’s been achieved here in such a relatively short time. We also value tremendously our friendship with Bristol Myers Squibb, with whom we share not just a name, but a healing mission.”